Pizza Union: A little slice of Naples
Pizza Union, founded by Bobby Hashemi, is an Italian restaurant that promises to deliver super-fast pizza the Italian way and has opened its second site in London’s Kings Cross.
Bobby Hashemi, one of the founders of Coffee Republic, is considered an expert in the food and drink world, and Pizza Union is an extension of his success.
After studying the idea of cooking pizza quickly all over the world, Bobby based the concept entirely on Naples, Italy. He was interested in how the pizzerias operate in the back streets of Naples and how they produced pizza so quickly.
Working with I-AM, the project designers of the first and second site, the concept and design of the two pizzerias were influenced heavily by the small pizzerias found in Naples. “What we’ve tried to do is build in a lot of the qualities that Naples has. So the materials, finishes and detailing are all taken from those back streets in Naples in order to give a really authentic quality to the space,” commented Jon Blakeney, the Managing Director of I-AM.
The first test of Pizza Union was built in Spitalfields, London. With the exceptional success of this restaurant, the development at Kings Cross gave them the opportunity to push the concept a little bit further. As the site in Kings Cross is slightly larger, the design included some elements that couldn’t be implemented in Spitalfields.
Both restaurants boast impressive pizza ovens as the main focal point and these ovens can be seen clearly as customers step through the door. Like in Naples, the ovens are tiled in order to produce their ‘superfast’ pizzas. In Kings Cross, the design uses black tiles to create a bolder focal point in the restaurant.
Developed in February 2015, the site at Kings Cross was completed later in the year. The restaurant is divided into two main areas. The first area – the energetic area – has larger tables for groups.
The second area is a little quieter and slower paced. The seating is lower and more comfortable, and is for those who are happy to sit back and relax without having to dash off. “This meant that customers can choose the sort of mood that suits them at that moment in time,” said Jon.
The design for Pizza Union incorporates high quality materials, which will age gracefully over time. As the site in Spitalfields is a newer building, I-AM retained the site’s exposed breeze blocks to give the design a more urban feel when compared to its Kings Cross counterpart.
The interior design here focused on combining the Victorian building with the Italian elements Pizza Union is known for. Most of the brick work and flooring were left in order to make the most of the site’s original features and original Italian marble was used for the counter top. The 100-seat restaurant uses wooden benches and an open plan cantina-like design to create an atmospheric and dramatic aesthetic.
Due to the popularity of Pizza Union at Spitalfields, there needed to be more space for customers to queue, so I-AM worked with the main contractors Rocket Interiors Ltd to incorporate this spatial requirement into the design.
The major alteration to this restaurant was the ergonomics of the seating. Customers needed to feel as comfortable as possible, while staff needed space to be able to serve customers easily. The counter and seating area was planned with efficiency in mind and this model will be used going forward for other sites.
The main challenge for the designers and contractors came from having to link two very old spaces that were on slightly different levels. “One of the biggest challenges was to take two shops and make them appear as one overall space from the exterior as well as the interior,” commented Jon. With this came the need for a lot of reinforcing to ensure the site was structurally sound before the full development could even happen.
Working on the project meant a lot for I-AM. “We love working with Bobby Hashemi, he’s been a great client to us and this was a wonderful opportunity for us. It was a very exciting project and we’re very proud of what we’ve all created as a team.”
In addition to its success with customers, Pizza Union has also been shortlisted in the Retail Week Interiors Awards2016 for ‘Best Leisure, Food and Drink Shop’ as well as ‘Restaurant of the Year’ at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards.
“It’s really exciting being nominated for awards. Being acknowledged like this is an important aspect for us and our suppliers.”
Synecore is an M&E contractor that specialises in providing electrical and HVAC design and installation for the hospitality, retail and leisure industries. Since the company was established in 2005, Synecore has secured a varied client base, including high street and airside brands, such as Pizza Hut, Hilton, Leon restaurants, Cote Brasserie, Five Guys, Wasabi, and hospitality giants, The Restaurant Group PLC.
With a nationwide infrastructure of professional engineers, project managers and suppliers, Synecore supports the national roll-out programmes for many well-known brands and independent outlets simultaneously.
One of Synecore’s latest additions to its portfolio is up-and-coming brand, Pizza Union. The firm’s two successful London restaurants have both received Synecore’s professional M&E design and installation service, which has played an integral role in the restaurant’s industrial design theme.
The Pizza Union restaurants feature Synecore’s renowned exposed and polished chrome HVAC pipe-work and galvanised tray-work that support the spotlights and pendant lighting. Further neon signage, including the Pizza Union trademark lion and crown, were installed internally and externally.
Pizza Union in King Cross is the more recent of the two restaurants, completed by Synecore. Originally due to take eight weeks, the schedule was significantly delayed by building works. Fortunately, Synecore’s ethos for providing exceptional customer service means the team often pull out all the stops to ensure a project remains on schedule. Therefore, in true Synecore spirit, the team worked long hours and weekends to deliver the Kings Cross project in just four weeks.
“Pizza Union is a brand that is destined to become a household name and we are delighted to be part of its development from the very beginning,” explains Paul Thomas, Synecore’s Managing Director.